COLUMBUS — Job growth in Ohio has all but stalled.
Ohio employers added just 12,500 jobs last year, the fewest since the state’s job totals began rising in 2010 as the economy began to recover from the Great Recession.
The number is based on revised 2017 jobs data released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, and stands in contrast to the robust U.S. jobs report released Friday that shows the national economy added 313,000 jobs in February, the most in nearly two years.
Initial reports had shown the state had added 35,400 jobs in 2017. While that’s a much higher number than the revision, it’s still low historically and, on a percentage basis, well below nationwide job gains. That continues a trend that began several years ago.
“This is very weak job growth. There’s no other way to get around it. It does certainly raise concerns about the state of Ohio economy entering 2018,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Bank in Pittsburgh.
The state has added about 550,000 jobs over the past eight years, but it still has about 90,000 fewer jobs today than it did in 2000.
Annual job gains have been sliding since 2014, when the state added 99,100 jobs. On the plus side, the revisions released Friday show the state’s employers created 11,700 jobs more from 2014 through 2016 than the old data showed and the state has hit record employment in a couple of sectors, including health care.
Faucher said part of the problem the state faces is demographics and education — the state lacks the young, well-educated workforce that companies covet.
“The Ohio workforce is much older, so that’s a deterrent for business to locate there. … They’re looking for skilled young workers. There is a shortage in Ohio compared with other parts of the country,” he said.
Part of the problem also could be tight labor markets. Ohio’s jobless rate was 4.7 percent in January, which ties a three-month period in 2015 as the lowest since 2001.
The Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank noted in a report this week that employers in its region — which covers Ohio, eastern Kentucky, western Pennsylvania and the West Virginia panhandle — say demand for talent exceeds supply and that it is tough to find workers.
At the same time, Ohio’s labor force has 200,000 fewer workers today than it did 10 years ago, according to state data.
“Overall, the market for talent remains challenging. Turnover and an aging workforce were commonly cited as key challenges. Retirements are limiting the potential pool of workers,” the report said.
“While we surely would prefer to see even more jobs created, there are strong indicators that Ohio is still on a positive upward trajectory,” Jon Keeling, spokesman for Gov. John Kasich, said in a statement.
“In fact, Ohio’s (economy) grew faster than 43 other states just last quarter, OhioMeansJobs.com lists 170,000 job openings, with half paying more than $50,000 per year, and just this last month, private-sector jobs grew by nearly 9,000. This administration will continue … advocating for policies that have helped 471,000 Ohioans find a job since Gov. Kasich took office.”
The new data comes after JobsOhio, the state’s nonprofit economic-development organization, touted 2017 as a banner year in which it worked with 272 companies on projects expected to create 22,788 jobs, retain 67,849 existing jobs and result in new investment of $9.6 billion in the state.
The job creation is an 11 percent increase from 2016, and the capital investment is a new record, according to JobsOhio.
“To be clear, these are jobs that are on their way to Ohio,” spokesman Matt Englehart said in an email. “We also are encouraged by our strong project pipeline, with interest coming from a more-diverse sector base than we saw several years ago. This should make Ohio more resilient in the future.”
As Keeling noted, Ohio is off to a better start in 2018.
The state’s employers added 12,100 jobs in January as they stepped up hiring across several sectors. The number of people out of work fell by 10,000 in the month, to 281,000.
The professional and business-services sector added 5,900 jobs last month, the most of any sector. Government employment increased by 3,200 jobs, construction added 2,600 workers, and the private education and health-care sector added 1,600 jobs.
The most-significant job losses were in two categories: manufacturing, and the leisure and hospitality sectors. Those two sectors cut 3,100 jobs last month.
The Ohio economy stands to benefit if hiring nationally continues to be strong, said Nationwide senior economist Ben Ayers.
“I’m still relatively optimistic,” he said. “As the national economy gets a little a bit of acceleration this year, I think you could see a little bit of a bounce back.”